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  • Writer's picturePeter

3 Years on our Sailing Yacht

At the beginning of July (the 10th to be precise) is our 3rd anniversary of living on our boat, “Ocean Deva” as our permanent residence. What an amazing 3 years we have had, it almost feels like a story about someone else and not about us. However, we have sailed over 12,000 nm and visited more than 15 different countries that spanned the 3 continents of Europe, Africa and America. We need to re-read our own blog to remind ourselves of what we have done and achieved. Three years in a small space has its moments, but we would not change this for anything.

We would also like to thank you for sharing our journey, it is a pleasure to have you with us and we look forwards to keeping you informed, inspired and entertained.

Our time here in Bonaire of 7 weeks seemed to zip by in the blink of an eye after our busy sailing season this year. Though we have been active with various projects, we have also taken time to rest, relax and enjoy life. This is what it is all about !

As we arrived, we found that is was hot, sunny and fortunately with a great breeze to keep the temperature under some control. However, the high sun, beating down on the deck was a little more than we bargained for and the cooling breeze was welcome, but it also came with a high content of sand and dust that means we are forever cleaning. We thought that the days of red Sahara dust was over, but it was only replaced with grey Bonaire dust. Or as the locals say: “There is a lot of pepper in the air today.”.

To counter the beating sun, sunblock, factor 50 is a help, but even a short exposure makes anyone with a light-coloured skin go very red in no time at all. A serious solution was needed and it took the form of a massive sun and rain shade over the boat to protect the fair skinned Admiral and deck hand from the elements.

We had bought 25m of Oyster coloured Docril-N canvas in the Netherlands for this purpose. Ingrid had a plan to turn this roll of fabric into a custom designed artistic creation that had to be suspended above the boat, making sure that sun and rain were unable to reach the deck and that the shade would not blow away by the steady breeze and occasional hurricane that may pass by.

It was a challenge to cut the large panels and sow them together with our little sowing machine, adding hems and attachment points in carefully chosen locations. Even finding a spot to lay out the material, without it getting dirty from the ground or blowing away in the wind was a real challenge. Patience, perseverance and a few well-chosen adult words did the trick. After a week and a few days of hard work, we were almost complete with a working shade. Unfortunately, we ran out of material and needed to order another 8m to complete the sides. There is therefore a little more to do before we finish, but at least the power of the sun is mitigated by the shade as it is.

Bonaire is so different from the other Caribbean Islands we have visited so far as there is a great infrastructure and a good standard of living. The supermarkets are of a similar price to that of Europe and there is not much you can’t buy here. Shopping at Van Der Tweel (= Albert Heijn/Jumbo) supermarket is just like shopping in The Netherlands. Whatever we cannot get on the island we can buy in Europe VAT free, ship to Bonaire and pay an 8% local tax – making an equivalent cost to buying in Europe (This is the way we bought the additional material for the sunshade; which arrived within 2 weeks of ordering).

What we really found surprising was that for an island in the Caribbean there is hardly a banana to be found. There are piles of mangos, avocados, passion fruit but bananas, maybe once a week, if we are lucky. I am sure we will work this out one day, but for the moment it remains a mystery.

The island itself has a volcanic origin with a now fossilised coral reef around the upland areas. The reef is now eroded and forms a typical karstic scenery with caves, sinkholes and limestone pavement.

The new coral reef has grown on the ancient reef system and created a real “Divers Paradise” – which gives a good excuse for us to refresh our neglected skills.

What makes this place so good is that there is a reef around the island that is within 50 meters from the shore. Almost anywhere it is either possible to walk in or tie up to a buoy and dive in beautifully clear waters. The waters are protected and so the corals and fish are magnificent. Even in the marina we have seen turtles, spotted eagle rays, small tuna and boxfish swimming around.

I did not realize, but it has been over 5 years since we last went diving – probably in Oman or in Abu Dhabi was the last occasion. Our regulators were serviced a few months ago in Las Palmas and rubber items such as the straps for the fins were replaced (one broke after the other). We have been so busy learning about sailing that we have not found sufficient time to dive in a relaxed way.

In preparation for diving, the first job was to take our dive computers to the dive shop for a battery change as both Ingrid’s and mine had run out completely. Ingrid’s watch failed the pressure test and so the buttons on the side needed a little additional maintenance before it could be used.

As my diving was certainly rusty from neglect, I decided that a refresher course was necessary and so I wandered up to “Dive Friends”, a few minutes’ walk from the marina. I met Alex, who seemed very relaxed and in no hurry to take my money and move onto the next client. A date was set and I turned up with all my gear to go through a refresher discussion and a practical of clearing my mask and sharing air before we went for a dive on the house reef.

Well, my BCD (Buoyance Control Device - the bit that keeps you from sinking) was rotten and full of holes. I was silently thankful that I did not try and dive on my own from the boat previously as it could have been quite disastrous. Alex was not phased and she went up to the dive shop to bring me a spare BCD so we could continue our refresher. From then on, all went well – the rust was removed, and a slick oily diver was re-born.

I continued my diving with our neighbour Apollo, and we worked out how to get everything into a small dinghy, find a dive site and get in and out of the water safely. My little 5 litre air tank was great for this and allowed me to dive for about 40 minutes at around 10m of depth. These shallow depths are the best for diving as there are most fish and corals in this zone and the sunlight is bright.

Meanwhile, Ingrid is slowly coming to the idea that she would also like to remove the rust of inactivity and consider a refresher course. I knew Alex would be perfect for her and I waited until she was ready. Meanwhile, considering the disaster of my own BCD, I checked out Ingrid’s to make sure it was in good condition. As it happened, the empty/fill valves were not working and there was again a potential disaster had it not been checked out before use. Off to the dive shop for more repairs – but very necessary for a successful dive.

Ingrid’s dive with Alex was excellent and the two did get along well just as I hoped. We were actually invited to dive with Alex and her husband Dan, on the weekend, so the practice continued with some professional supervision to help boost confidence.

And I finally had the chance to dive with Ingrid again after 5 years of inactivity.

You may remember that our main reason for wanting to be here in the ABC Islands was to avoid the hurricanes of the Caribbean which tend to be causing havoc further to our north.

Shortly after our arrival we noted a tropical depression off the coast of West Africa, followed by the development of a second depression – both of them heading towards the Southern Caribbean. The first was named Bret and the second was named Cindy. Naturally we watched their progress with avid interest and were a little nervous when Bret decided to stop heading north and started to head in our general direction. Good girl Cindy went further north and fizzled out in the Bahamas. However, Bret though downgraded to a tropical storm passed about 50 miles north of us. As this was our “first” we were a little unsure of the effect. Interestingly, all the commercial boats left the open sea moorings and buoys to dock inside the marina until the danger was over (Clearly, nobody takes any chances here). The skies darkened and some serious rain fell for a short while, but really there was no significant problems for us. We hope this is the worst, but we remain vigilant at all times.

Bonaire was a moment to re-connect with other friends and boats we had met along the way, over the last 3 years and also to make new friends. Bonaire is a favourite destination for many people for reasons of safety, shopping and diving.

We met with Avalon, Spirit of a Geisha, Virgo Mares, Embla, Maiken, Windy and connected with our new neighbours Blanca and Ramiro on their boat Vitamin Sea (they were doctors).

The camaraderie and friendship are ever present between like minded people who love life, the sea, sailing and each other. We are always happy to give and take from this pool of people as our lives and the lives of others are enriched with the contact.

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